OTTAWA — In their previous four road games, the Buffalo Sabres were in control.
Calgary. Edmonton. Vancouver. Boston. Check. Check. Check. Check. Four wins, virtually nothing to quibble about.
The Sabres nearly extended their road winning streak to five games for the first time since 2006 Thursday night but it wasn't nearly the same kind of game.
There were mistakes with the puck and away from it. Too many stick penalties. A bad clear by Ryan O'Reilly that led to the tying goal. A bad change by Evander Kane that spelled trouble on the winning goal.
Robin Lehner spent much of the night saving the Sabres' bacon but he just couldn't hold the fort any longer. Derick Brassard scored the tying goal with 30.9 seconds left and Mike Hoffman's sizzler at 1:13 of overtime gave the Ottawa Senators a 3-2 win over the Sabres in Canadian Tire Centre.
The Senators outshot the Sabres, 36-25, and destroyed them in shot attempts (75-44). Star defenseman Erik Karlsson, whose second assist of the game came on the OT winner, had six shots on goal and a monster total of 15 attempts. While numbers sometimes lie, they sure didn't here.
"We got exactly what we deserved," grumbled coach Phil Housley. "The compete, the battles, they won the majority of them. Even though we found a way to get a 2-1 lead, to me we've played much better than that the last 3-4 games and we got away from what made us successful. That's why you get the result that you get."
In a final analysis, the Sabres continue to be just good enough to lose. They are 7-9-11 in one-goal games, leading the NHL with 20 losses overall and 11 in overtime. Eight of those are outside of Buffalo, seven on the road plus the Winter Classic loss to the New York Rangers that's considered a home game.
The Sabres grabbed a 2-1 lead on Evan Rodrigues' goal with 4:29 to play and it looked like that would stand up as the winner. But Marian Gaborik, playing his first game for Ottawa, set up Brassard with a neat backhand pass and Brassard made no mistake to tie the game with goalie Craig Anderson on the bench for an extra attacker.
In overtime, Kane started to come off the ice and then briefly circled back thinking he needed to stay on. That left O'Reilly no chance to get in the play and Marco Scandella and Sam Reinhart to defend a 3-on-2. It was game over. Matt Duchene dropped the puck to Karlsson, who fed Hoffman for the one-time slapshot in the right circle.
It was easy to evoke sympathy for Lehner, who made 33 saves and was less than 15 minutes from his third straight road shutout until Gaborik tipped home a Karlsson shot for his first goal as a Senator at 5:15 of the third period.
"He kept us in the game. Those are the games you like to win for your goalie," Rodrigues said. "Maybe we're not playing our best and you find a way to win for him. We were really close and you want to find the way to close out and win for him."
Lehner was strong in the crease all night, standing up to several Grade A scoring chances after the Sabres struggled with puck management or flat-out made turnovers. There wasn't much he could do on either of the last two goals, especially the game-winner.
"Karlsson shot the puck a lot today and I thought he was going to shoot it and try to go through the legs," Lehner said. "Hoffman didn't seem like a threat. He was at a bad angle. Good pass, good one-timer, I tried to get there but it was tough."
"He played terrific. He always seems to bring his best against Ottawa and he brought it tonight," said winger Kyle Okposo. "It's unfortunate we couldn't get the win for him. Nothing he could do on those last two goals."
Okposo made a huge play on Rodrigues' goal, taking control of the puck at the Buffalo line and chugging through the neutral zone to produce a 4-on-2 break. He found Rodrigues open in the right circle and Rodrigues' shot pinged the post past Craig Anderson.
"Fantastic play by him," Rodrigues said. "Cutting the middle, drawing the 'D' over to him and gave me that extra second to look up, see the net and see where I wanted to shoot."
But it was a rare play in this one. Too often the Sabres didn't have a sense of what they were doing with the puck. They only had four shots on goal in the second period and were certainly lucky to have a 1-0 lead through 40 minutes on Scott Wilson's first-period tally.
"It wasn't a clean game," Okposo said. "We didn't execute very well. Our effort was more sporadic. The second period they absolutely dominated us and we didn't have much. We have to be better for 60. We can't just play in spurts."